Hello. To all of you who suffer from joint pain, I am feeling for you today. The weather has been so damp and horrid that joints must be suffering more than normal; we need some sun based heat to ease our bones!
This is the penultimate blog in the series of muscle based head and neck pain and I am looking at those people who have tried many forms of therapy to help pain before they see me.
I see a lot of people coming into my treatment room as if seeing me is the last resort; they have tried everything, even aura massage (I kid you not!). Their head and neck pain is personal, intense, tiring and persistent and they want it to go away. However nothing has worked for them and the headaches, migraines and neck tension come back every other day, every week or every month. The most common pattern is that they have been told after having scans, x-rays, Consultants looking at there headaches and neck restrictions that they should have physiotherapy as it is soft tissue based pain. The physiotherapy has tried to strengthen and stretch the muscles and hasn't had too much effect and then my clients are told to have a massage. They book into their local salon for a relaxation treatment and they either walk out feeling no effect, or sadly, worse. Maybe after that they try other forms of holistic therapy, but nothing really 'gets in there and sorts it out'.
So let's look at each step in that process to see what we can see.
Scans, X-Rays and Consultants: I am over the moon when clients have had the tests and seen the medical experts before they see me! In fact, I encourage people to go through this process, although it is lengthy and painful at times, when they start seeing me if they haven't already. Why? Well, that's simple, I can't diagnose anything. That isn't my training and although I love seeing MRI scans, I haven't been trained to read them and so I don't know what I am looking at as far as using it as a diagnostic tool. So as soon as a Consultant or G.P says that the pain is based in the muscles being too tight (contracted), or weak (elongated), that is where I step in. As my clients regularly hear me tell them: 'Get a picture!'
Physiotherapy: Many people berate Physiotherapy in the U.K. Sadly, many people have seen a Physiotherapist through the NHS and those highly trained and talented therapists just aren't given enough time or money to complete their jobs in the way that they could if they where given a little more freedom.
Personally I fail to understand why Massage and Physiotherapy aren't recommended as a dual approach to beating muscle based pain. The focus of Advanced Clinical Massage is to treat trigger points, stretch muscles gently, regain the over all health of the connective tissue and muscle fibre and get people to a place where they can then progress to safe and effective exercise. Physiotherapy takes over at that point and helps people regain range of motion; increasing the fitness of the muscles and connective tissues. Working hand in hand, Advanced Clinical Massage and Physiotherapy would work wonders as they compliment each other beautifully. The same can be said for the combination of Advanced Clinical Massage with Osteopathic, Chiropractic, and Acupuncture care; working holistically with each other should mean that people suffering with pain get out of it quicker.
In short, there is no reason to just see one person; if you can get a combination of people who can help your body with their different skill sets you will get a much more rounded result.
Salon Based Massage: I have been a salon therapist; it is where I learned my trade! I spent three and a half years doing Swedish Massage on 6 people a day. I got a lot of people under my hands in a very safe and supportive setting. I was privileged enough to be part of a great team and my boss really encouraged me to leave and find my own way in the big wide world of therapy. I know what it's like to give, and to receive, a massage in a salon. (In fact I had a nice massage yesterday at the salon up the road).
I think that where people get confused is partly due to the focus of a salon. Salons are designed to lull you to sleep and they do it really well. (I was away with the fairies yesterday!). They are warm, relaxing and smell divine. They are there for you to get away from the bustle of the world around you and I really value them for that. But the massage is not focused on beating your muscle based pain pathways. The therapists are trained to a good Level 3 or 4 (4 is the equivalent to an A-Level), and then they stop. The anatomy is good, but not in depth, and I would argue that if they are focused in on relaxing people it doesn't need to be any more than that.
Getting focused on anatomy, pathologies, injuries, techniques and basically some incredibly nerdy stuff takes a minimum of another 4 years of practice and training, so to find the level above a Salon based Swedish Massage is rare, but at least you know that when you have found that person you are seeing someone who is truly dedicated to getting rid of your headaches. They will probably read anatomy books over their tea breaks and take bodywork journals to read in bed before they go to sleep. Believe me, I know!
The focus in my treatments is different and although I would hope you go away feeling relaxed, or maybe even energized, I ask you to move around a lot, I ask for you to communicate on how we are doing, what you are feeling and at what level as well as incorporating range of motion tests, orthopaedic evaluations and the like. It's not a salon experience as I even give you homework!
So take heart, I may be the last resort but there is always a way forward. Obviously there are loads of treatments that I haven't mentioned today, but I think those are the 3 stories that I am guaranteed to hear on a daily basis. I would love to hear your experiences and if you would like me to blog on any others, do let me know and I'll do my best to write about it!
What I'm loving in the Treatment Room today: I have taken this week off from treatments and have been doing the tax accounts, reading around my dissertation subject as well as sewing some cushion covers for the living room! Today I am taking the afternoon to cut out a trouser pattern and watch series 9 of Spooks; the rain had put me off doing a Pilates class!
Music of the day: Some very far out West-Coast hippie Americana; I love it!